How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Making your own sourdough starter can seem like a daunting task, but let me be the first one to tell you how very simple it really is!

So simple in fact that it took me 3 times to get it right! Because my first one went moldy when I forgot to feed it one day during the starting period. The second one died a slow and horrible death when I forgot to feed it for a few weeks. ahem.

Let me rephrase, it’s simple when you do it correctly.

What you’ll need

  • 2 sterilized jars or bowls (not metal)
  • A non metallic spoon
  • A coffee filter or thin fabric
  • whole wheat flour, spelt, rye
  • water (if you have city water you must boil and let cool or aerate with a blender to rid it of chlorine)

Now the ratios of water to flour are 1:1 when starting a new sourdough starter. For this instructional I used 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour for each feeding, though personally I’d go 1/2 cup if I did it over again. Because 1 + 1 does not equal 2 in this senario, so when I did 1/4 cup each day I ended up with less than 2 cups of starter.

Day One

Place a 1:1 ratio of flour and water into a clean and sterilized jar and stir well.

(Let me take a brief moment and point out my old starter in the jar, top right. Umm, that’s what happens when you forget to feed your starter. It dries out and turns to concrete)

Cover with the filter or thin towel and set in an open area so it can start collecting the natural yeast.

Day Two

Transfer the starter to a clean jar/bowl and feed your new pet another 1:1 ratio of flour and water in the same amount you used for day one. So if you used 1/2 cup for each, you’ll use 1/2 cup again. Stir well, cover, and set back out.

Day Three Through Six

Again, each day you’ll feed your starter a 1:1 ratio of flour and water. It will start to get bubbly and you’ll also notice it separate a bit and get a watery layer. Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

And most directions I read say to put it in a clean jar each day.

I did not.

And yes, I can be that lazy.

So I just changed jars a couple times during the “starting” process.

Day Seven

Your starter should now have gone through the bubbly stage and smell somewhat ‘sour’. Transfer to a clean jar and feed it one more time.

At this point it is ready to use! You can now do one of 2 things.

  1. Test out some new recipes! Just make sure you feed it again before you put it in the fridge to store.
  2. Pop it right in the fridge for use later

Care and Feeding of your Starter

Upkeep on a starter is very simple. If you do not use your starter for one week, transfer to a new jar, feed it a 1:1 ratio of flour and water, and set it back in the fridge.


After you use it for a recipe, feed it the same 1:1 ratio and let it sit out again for just a couple hours before storing in the fridge. (transfer to a clean jar about once a week)

If your starter starts getting a bit to thin, go ahead and pour out the watery layer that settles at the top!

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Mrs. Hewett says:

    Thank you so much for posting these instructions and including pictures! Learning how to make sourdough is one of my goals for this year and your instructions are very helpful. I’m a visual learner so your photos and clear instructions are the next best thing to watching someone show me how to do this (something I don’t have). It looks like something I can actually do. Thanks again!
    Mrs. H

  2. Thanks so much for this! I was curious about doing my own starter totally “from scratch,” and here you post detailed instructions. Yay! :) I’m going to start mine either today or tomorrow and will blog about my results…and will definitely be linking back to yours. :)

    donielle Reply:

    @Sara, Let me know how it goes!

  3. Never thought or heard of doing this with a coffee filter. what a great idea. I have always done it with cheesecloth over a bowl as directed in Nourishing Traditions, but it never fails to quickly become a mess and a take up tons of room on the counter:) Have you made yours that way before? Do you notice a difference in using a smaller jar and a coffee filter? Thanks for this! I’m going to give it a try:)

    donielle Reply:

    @Kelsey, Both of my successful starters were made in a jar with a filter over the top. Though I’ve never tried it with a bowl. I barely have room on the counter for a jar, so a bowl was out of question!

  4. I have a sorely neglected sourdough starter in my fridge. I need to start over (it’s been waaaaaay too long since I fed it). I’m still looking for a good sourdough bread recipe…the ones I’ve made so far either didn’t rise, or melted into a large biscuit on my baking stone. And I really like sourdough bread–so I keep trying! :) Thanks for posting the easy peasy steps for making a starter. :)

    DaynawithaY Reply:


    It’s been two years since you posted this, but for anyone else reading, you can totally resurrect unfed starter. If you’ve kept it in the cold part of the fridge, the yeast goes dormant. To resurrect it, I bring the jar out to the counter, let it sit a day to warm up to room temp, then feed it with warm (not hot) water and flour. I add a bit of sugar, too, to jump-start the yeast’s growth.

  5. I soooo want to do this. Have you ever done it with a gluten-free flour, like amaranth? Have you ever done it with sprouted flour? My ultimate goal is to do it with sprouted flour. Figured that would be safest but I can’t find too many articles that refer to using sprouted flour in sourdough. Hmm….

    donielle Reply:

    @Kate, Someone asked about gluten free flours on my facebook page too and I found this link

    As per the sprouted flour – as far as I know, you’d use like normal. So it’d be the same directions for sprouted and unsprouted flour.

  6. Ok, I am going to start this starter, now’s the perfect time. I have started and used starters before made with potato flakes, but this sounds more like what I want to do. My question is, do you use whole wheat flour from the grocery store or do you buy your ingredients from a health/whole foods store? Not sure grocery store flour wouldn’t already have the stuff we’re aiming to cut out. Thanks for the recipe and for your answer!

    donielle Reply:

    @Rita Mars, Most grocery stores carry a decent brand of whole wheat flour. Just check labels to make sure that’s all that is in here and you’re golden. I can even get organic whole wheat flour at mine. health food stores are another good option if you have one nearby!

  7. Hi Donielle,
    I’m a young newlywed looking for delicious but healthy ideas and things to be aware of. I’ve really appreciated browsing your site the past couple days! Yesterday I began a starter, and there are several things I know for a fact that I did wrong, but I’m wondering if they can be fixed or if I should just start over.
    I stirred it with a metal spoon, by accident. Also, I didn’t have a coffee filter so I used a thin cloth. My jar is quite small but it didn’t seem like it was supposed to bubble much until the end so I assumed it was ok. Anyway, this morning it had bubbled up through the cloth!
    So, first of all, is it okay to use a plastic container? I think I need something bigger than my recycled jam and olive jars, but don’t have anything glass that’s bigger. Also, should I dump this one out and start over or should I just transfer it to a new container (bigger and with a coffee filter), even though I messed those things up?

    Thank you so much!

    Donielle Reply:

    @Cait, Hi Cait! If it’s bubbling – that’s a very good thing! No need to toss it out!

    Re: metal spoons – i occasionally stir mine with a metal spoon as well. 😉 I think the problem comes in when you do it ALL the time, or when it has constant exposure to metal it tends to kill the yeasts.

    Re: plastic container – personally I’s only use glass for my sourdough container. Because it sits in the jar constantly, I don’t like that something from the plastic could leach into it. The jar I regularly use is 1 quart.

    Re: covers – use whatever thin material you have on hand! I just use coffee filters because I have a TON and don’t want to throw them away even though I no longer own a coffeepot. :-)

    I’d just transfer it to a larger container (or bowl until you get a larger vessel)!

    Cait Reply:

    @Donielle, Thank you Donielle! That’s good to know. I think I was also afraid because it smelled terrible! I’ll stick with it next time.

  8. Okay Donielle, I’m going to give it a go and attempt to make this. 😀 Sterilizing a jar to use right now… I have been researching this a good part of the evening and then a google search brought me right back to you – I should have just started here since I’m on your site for the workshop all the time anyway. haha Anyway, thanks for the tutorial and pictures, and we’ll see how it goes!

  9. Attempting my first sourdough starter today! Thanks for your easy to follow instructions. Hope it turns out!!

  10. @Mindy, How’d it go? Did your starter work?

  11. Is there anything I need to let the starter do before I use it again after having been in the fridg a few days? Or do I just use it cold right out of the fridg? thanks!! It worked!! =) =)

    donielle Reply:

    @anna, Using it at room temperature is preferable- otherwise the yeast may stay to ‘dormant’ for it to rise. Sometimes I’ll get it out the night before and “feed” it more flour and water to really get it going again, but as long as it’s room temp, you’ll be fine!

  12. I read in some recipes that on Day 2 and thereafter, you must discard half the flour/water mix before you add the additional flour and water for that day. Is it necessary to discard half before you add more flour and water? I noticed you did not have this in your recipe, which is why I am asking.


    donielle Reply:

    @Ranelle, I’ve had a couple of people mention this to me, and I have seen it in recipes before online, but have never done that myself. I don’t really know anyone that regularly does it either so….? I don’t think it’s necessary at all myself. :-)

  13. donielle says:

    @Stella Locke, I’m sorry you don’t agree with my method for sourdough, but this has worked well for me for over a year and I’ve been baking breads just fine.

    I cover my starter with a coffee filter or some other sort of thin cloth to keep out bugs, debris, and my animals – not for the sake of bacteria.

    I highly recommend doing what you can to remove chlorine, not so much of the sake of the starter, but for the sake of overall health. In my opinion chlorine should not be consumed.

    I also commented that a lot of directions say to change out the jars each day – though I also mentioned that I do not.

    I do not cover exactly HOW to use the starter for recipes (re: when to take it out before baking, etc) as this was just a tutorial on how to make the actual starter – not how to make bread with it.

    I never claim to be an expert in anything, I simply share my experiences with my readers. Again, I’m sorry you don’t appreciate my content, but you need to realize that there is a real person here on the other end of this website and rude comments like the one you left are far from appreciated and will not be allowed. We strive only to encourage here and comments that are left must do the same, even if you disagree. We’re always open to new tips and tricks from our readers, just not in this manner.


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